Son Opens his Heart While Teaching Mom to Face her Fears

104Losing my daughter, Syndee, was life’s way of smacking me across the head and reminding me just how miraculous life, and childbirth in particular, truly are. As terrified as I was, I wanted to have another baby immediately. I was so nervous, in fact, I held my breath the entire time I was pregnant with Jake; which is kind of ironic since I regularly remind people to ‘just breathe’. The day I brought him home from the hospital, I sat on the kitchen floor and cried for hours, and not just weeping, deep animalistic crying that erupted like a volcano.  I couldn’t have stopped it from coming out if I tried.

Two years later, Jonah was born, and by that time some of my fears began to fade.  I was grateful for my two sons and I started to feel as if everything worked out just as it was meant to be; until our pediatrician discovered that Jonah had a heart murmur.  My fears came rushing back with immense force. “I cannot lose another child!” “I could never handle that kind of pain again!” Thoughts fiercely bounced around in my head.

We went to see a pediatric cardiologist and they revealed that Jonah had what is referred to as a subaortic stenosis; an obstruction or narrowing at the outlet of the lower left chamber of the heart, just below the aortic valve. My fears were raging by this point! 

Jonah required regular visits to the cardiologist to monitor the progression. Every appointment was filled with fear and anxiety because we knew one day he would indeed need surgery. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. At the end of each appointment, the doctor advised us to come back the following year, and there was a collective sigh as we walked out of the hospital exhausted from all the stress. 

Right around Jonah’s 11th birthday he appeared to be slowing down. This was a kid who played at 120% at all times and didn’t stop playing just because he was out of breath.  There was a glaring difference we could see and he could feel.  I’ll never forget the day he told me he wasn’t feeling right and that everything felt harder; breathing, running, playing.  My heart sank.  We both knew what that meant.

The cardiologist confirmed our suspicions; it was time for the surgery. Imagine having to look in your child’s eyes as the doctor is telling him that he is going to have open heart surgery – it was gut-wrenching! If there was anything I could have done to trade places with Jonah, I would have done it.

A few days prior to the surgery, the hospital staff took Jonah on a tour of the hospital. He met the doctors and nurses who would be taking care of him, got a chance to see where he’d be staying and discovered the all-you-can-eat, on-demand menu and the video collection. And then, the doctors asked him if he had any questions about the surgery. My first reaction was “No, don’t tell him anymore, you’ll freak him out!” But he wanted to know details, and as it turned out, it helped him to feel like part of the team that was making the decisions. It gave him a sense of control which apparently put him at ease to some extent. Of course, he almost passed out when they drew blood that day, and to this day he breaks out in a cold sweat and gets woozy from a prick on the finger. Go figure.

The night before the surgery I obsessed over the possible scenarios of how the morning might play out. I envisioned Jonah crying hysterically, clinging to the headboard with all his might, begging me not to make him go. I envisioned throwing him over my shoulder like a cave-woman and dragging him to the car. My imagination was running wild. In reality, he woke up the morning of his surgery, got dressed and walked to the car without a peep. He faced his fears head on! I was in awe as I watched him, and in watching him I gained the strength I needed to be the strong mom he needed me to be. It was a beautiful thing!

Jonah was in the hospital for five days and out of school for a month.  Within four days of being home he refused to take any more pain medication. Within two weeks he was negotiating with me to let him “gently” throw the football around with his brother, and if you knew my boys, you would know there is no such speed as “gentle”. He was, in the truest sense, living in the moment. No pain; no pain medication. I feel like playing ball; let’s play ball. He wasn’t thinking about the past or the future. Kids are the best teachers!

This was a life changing moment for Jonah, one that would show him how strong he was and what he had the ability to overcome. It taught him that life can get a little crazy, but that nothing lasts forever. To this day, he walks through life in the moment with little fear; maybe because he’s already faced his worst fear.

As a mom, I am incredibly proud having seen my son go through this intense experience with such grace and fearlessness. He taught me so much. Two years later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and one of my biggest fears was telling my kids.  We had been through a lot and the thought of putting more on their young plates was excruciating. But, because I saw the strength it gave Jonah to know the truth during his surgery, I knew the best thing was to be honest and up front with them. 

When I told Jonah, he said, “Mom, I’m not worried, my surgery was way worse than yours.” He was right, and from that moment on, I felt as though I could handle anything. If my 11-year-old could handle open-heart surgery, I could handle this. Watching him face his fears head on gave me the strength to face mine.

Get your Ugly Face on!! #22

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

Get your Ugly Face on!!

Feelings come up and we ignore them, push them down, smile and pretend like everything is A-Okay because everybody around us “appears” so happy, except they aren’t.  I recall vividly stuffing my feelings down as early as 5 years old with my drug of choice; cake batter. The following 35 years or so I spent eating as a means of avoiding feelings. I became an expert at numbing myself the minute I started to feel “badly”; cookie dough, brownie batter, hmmmm…I’m sensing a theme.

I remember Byron Katie, an amazing teacher of mine, saying that feelings come up to say goodbye. It is so true! I think crying gets a bad rap. Crying is one of our greatest, and most underused tools we have to help us heal our grief and grow to our potential. I think many of us, me included at times, think something terrible is going to happen if we cry, like our head is going to explode or we are going to break down, never to return to normal, but in fact, it’s the exact opposite. It is the one thing that can bring us back to “normal”. I haven’t done the research yet, but I am pretty sure nobody has ever died from crying. If we take the time to nurture ourselves, and find a quiet spot to go every time we needed to cry and just let that shit out, we would feel so much better!

I ptheholidayrefer to be alone when I’m crying, making crazy ugly faces, boogers coming out of my nose, mascara running down my face, and frankly people get uncomfortable when they see others cry.  If I’m watching a chick flick while my kids are at home they have a radar for the exact moment I’m about to cry, and they call me on it every time!  It really takes the fun out of it. Sometimes I know I need a good cry so I’ll purposely turn on a chick flick to get the tears to start flowing.  The Holiday is my 100% guaranteed, I’m going to cry for sure, movie. Music is another amazing tool for helping me to cry if I’m feeling stressed and I can’t cry.  MacKenzie Bourg from American Idol is my top choice for music these days. Something about his voice is so beautiful it just gets the tears rollin’.

Crying actually feels good, similar to that of laughing, especially when you’re finished and your face goes back to normal.  I noticed this after I lost my daughter.  I cried as much and as often as I could because I noticed that the more I got out, the better I started to feel in between the sad days. The way I see it is “the closest distance between two points is a straight line”, point A is the loss, point B is feeling better, crying is the straight liScreen Shot 2016-05-23 at 11.57.37 AMne (avoiding feelings is Mount Everest).

Sometimes I cry for other reasons like because I’m proud of somebody, or because I’m really feeling grateful about something, or because a Hallmark commercial comes on. In any case, it all feels pretty good if I let it come up and take its natural course.

Life has its challenges, and in spite of that, we walk around being strong, with a stiff upper lip, dusting our pants off and getting back up, and singing “I will Survive”. But sometimes, we just need a good cry. We need to really feel whatever is going on inside of us and let it all come out. Our bodies carry the stress inside and its giving us signals all the time to do something about it, and we ignore it. Until, if you’re like me, you wake up one morning with breast cancer, and then you think “Shit, I should have listened to my body and let that shit out!”

Jonah’s Open Heart #21

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

 

Jonah’s Open Heart

When they say I would rather take the pain myself then watch my child go through it, they aren’t kidding. When my son Jonah was three years old a doctor noticed that he had a heart murmur. She sent us to a pediatric heart specialist, and lo and behold, Jonah had a sub aortic stenosis; simply put, a blockage below the aorta where blood flows out. It was small and something the doctors watched year after year to be sure that it didn’t get to the point where surgery would be necessary. We visited the heart doctor every year fearing the worst. Each year they told us that it was steady or growing slowly and to come back the following year.

Just before Jonah’s eleventh birthday, in 2011, he started slowing down, unable to run as far and as fast as he had in the past. Jonah was always a very energetic kid who loved to run and jump and flip as often as possible. Nothing slowed him down until that year. He even complained that he wasn’t feeling like himself. We all knew it was time.

We made an appointment with the heart doctor and they agreed. It was time. Imagine having to listen to a doctor tell your child that they needed open-heart surgery. This was one of the most difficult days of my life. The look on his face was gut-wrenching. If there was anything I could have done to trade places with him, I would have, to spare him the fear and pain he would have to endure.

To hear Jonah tell it, the hardest part was 1) all the needles, believe it or not, 2) waking up and not being able to breathe because of the tube down his throat and the machine that was breathing for him and 3) getting all of the tubes out, one after the other as the days went on. For me, it was the mental anguish of watching my child go through the scariest time of his life.

It was a life changing moment for him, and one that showed him how strong he was and what he could overcome. It turned a free spirited, in-the-moment child, into a more serious young man. It showed him just how strong he really was, and it showed him just how real life can get really quickly.

As a mom, I cannot tell you how proud I am having watched my son go through this with grace and fearlessness. He taught me so much, in fact, that I would call upon those memories two years later when I was faced with my own scary diagnosis. His response when I told him I needed surgery was “Mom, I’m not worried, my surgery was way worse than yours.” He was right.

During this experience I learned to be honest with my kids because their imagination is always worse than the truth. I learned that kids can handle far more than we give them credit for. I also learned that kids can really teach us adults a thing or two about life. They live in the moment rather than the future and what might happen, and I’m guessing that’s what keeps the level of pain at a minimum for them because they only experience what is actually happening in that moment, rather than the pain from all the future they anticipate.

Just two short weeks after open-heart surgery, Jonah was trying to negotiate with me to let him throw the football “gently” to his brother. If you know my boys, you know there is no such speed as “gentle”. Kids really do live in the moment and they are so resilient. They are such great teachers!

We had been going to a pediatric heart specialist for eight years, and about a year before Jonah’s surgery, on a whim, I decided to go on a dating website. The one man I went out with from that website was a pediatric heart surgeon from the same hospital, and coincidentally, he was the heart surgeon who was scheduled to do Jonah’s surgery. The universe was at work setting things up long before Jonah’s surgery, and it gave me a renewed faith that somebody up there was looking out for us.  A coincidence? I think not.

Thanks Doc! xo

Should a Couple Stay Together for the Sake of the Children

Should people stay married for the sake of their children? I asked myself that very question when I was considering leaving my ex, Eric. Deciding to get divorced is never an easy decision to make. I agonized over it for 2 years before making a final decision as did many of my friends in their relationships. It is such a hard decision to make especially when you have children. There is so much more at stake when kids are involved.

So, being the logical person that I tend to be, I sat down and thought about what made sense to me. I looked at our relationship which went from good friends and lovers to two angry, depressed people running a household together as if it were a business. I thought about the atmosphere in my house and I noticed that the air was quite thick, there was very little civil conversation going on and my ex and I spent a whole lot of time clenching our jaws when we were there together. We argued a lot over the little things and we screamed at each often. After careful consideration and contemplation, I decided that I needed to get my kids out of that toxic environment.

Not every couple that gets divorced has built up enough resentment to create this toxic atmosphere, but many have. I have had the unfortunate occasion to have been approached by at least 25 or 30 married men (no kidding) looking to have an affair. I’m quite interested in how people think and behave, as well as relationships and how they work, so I always asked “Why?” The story was always the same! We got married, had kids, the wife got tired because she was caring for small children, handling the household details and often working. The husband was exhausted because he was working long hours providing for the family. The sex life decreased significantly and the resentment built on both sides. The more resentment, the less the husband would help around the house, the more tired the wife grew and the less frequent the sex would become. The friendship they built went out the window. Eventually, the men in my scenario found other people to meet their sexual needs and didn’t even consider trying to “fix” things with their wives as an option. It is uncanny how similar their stories were.

I also asked why they didn’t leave the relationships if they were so unhappy. Every single one of them said that they wanted to stay together “for the sake of the children.” It really got me to thinking, is this truly the best thing for these kids?

I am no psychologist, but I have done my own informal “research” and I have come to the conclusion that it is not necessarily the best thing for the kids. I know you are fuming right now, but hear me out.

What are we teaching our children when we stay in a loveless, sexless marriage where there is minimal communication? From what I can tell, we are teaching them to settle for less than what makes them truly happy, and folks LIFE IS SHORT! We are teaching them that a hostile environment is the norm for a marriage and that is what they should expect. We are teaching them to expect very little from marriage and relationships. It is very likely that our children will one day have relationships just like ours despite doing everything in their power not to. We followed in our parent’s footsteps even when we tried not to, didn’t we? We are modeling the behavior of two hostile adults that chose ignoring a problem, suffering through it and pretending to be happy versus talking and working it out, or splitting up and being two happy separate people. Our kids don’t have a chance for a successful relationship; they haven’t learned how to communicate with the opposite sex successfully.

Our kids know everything! Don’t think your kids don’t know how unhappy you are because you will only be fooling yourself and doing them a disservice. I know several couples that have chosen to stay together for the sake of their children and they continue to scream as their main source of communication. Kids follow our actions, NOT our words. The adults scream, their kids scream, the kids even scream at their parents. It’s a horrible environment to visit; I can only imagine what it is like to live there.

I can’t say for sure what is right for every situation, but I do know that most of my friends and I all have all had civil divorces after not so civil marriages and we have what appear to be happy, well-adjusted children. At the very least, it’s worth your reconsideration, isn’t it? It beats the alternative.

Dear Corporate America, Lobbyists, Politicians,

Dear Corporate America, Lobbyists, Politicians,089

I’m writing to you as a concerned citizen. I’m concerned for future generations and the legacy we are all leaving for them. I’m sure to some this will seem obvious. My hope is to appeal to those who do not see it that way.

I realize from a corporate standpoint one needs to consider shareholders and profit margins, but to what end? What is enough? When will the shareholders feel confident enough that their investment is secure and that they can finally rest assured; $10 a share, $20, $100?

If we’re making decisions based solely on profit margin then the decisions we make will not support the well-being of the people who purchase those products and services, including you, your friends and family. I’m sure this fact has not been lost on you. I know for sure no amount of money will make you or any shareholder feel whole and happy inside. I know that deep down you know you are not exempt from the effects of all of these bad decisions any more than anybody else.

I am a mother who took a drug that was prescribed to me while I was pregnant and this particular drug company knew it was dangerous for babies in utero, and yet they made the decision to side with profit over the health of my son and so many other children. At 11 years old my son had to have open-heart surgery. There is no reason in the world that should have happened. I’m am curious to know, if that company had taken a vote with the shareholders and asked them if they would rather make an additional $5.00 per share or save the lives of children, what the outcome of that vote would be.

How about showing our children that honesty and integrity are the most important traits to cultivate. How about teaching them that the dollar isn’t the end all, because it isn’t. In fact, some corporations actually do set a good example and they are wildly successful! Look at Starbucks and Chipotle, they don’t compromise on standards or the well-being of humanity, and with little exception their stock prices have risen consistently over time. They are doing quite well for the shareholders, and I’ll bet they sleep very well at night.

How about showing future generations that they matter, they are our future after all, and they will be making big decisions on our behalf as we age. The younger generation is acutely aware that big business and politics don’t consider their education a priority, for instance. The decrease in funding and opportunities in schools is a clear indication that cannot be ignored. This fact is only heightened by the extraordinarily out-of-proportion defense budget that skyrockets as the education budget plummets. How can we expect our children to compete in this world and live to their highest potential when their opportunities are being depleted? There is no good reason for this. We cannot expect our children to respect us when we aren’t making decisions to their benefit, making them a priority.

To make matters worse, if you have ever spent time with a typical young adult from the inner city, you know the insurmountable odds they have to overcome to be successful. Education and nutrition, though, are two simple ways to afford these kids with an even playing field. We wish for less crime, a more civilized inner city, and yet we do not do the very things that would allow for it to happen; enthusiastically educate all of our children and provide them with the nutrition they need to be healthy and strong.

So, why is it that big business as a whole cannot seem to get on board with socially conscious business practices? How much profit is enough; $5 million, $10 million, $10 billion? And how do you sleep at night knowing the decisions you’re making are negatively impacting not only us, but you, your friends and family? If I had to guess I would bet you’re not sleeping well at all, and yes I’m talking to you. GMO’s aren’t only in my food, they are in yours too. Not only my friends and family are taking pharmaceuticals made by your companies, I’m guessing you are too – maybe ulcer medications, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids??

You have to see the path you are creating for our children. People are far less healthy despite all of our medical advancements, and so many people are getting cancer. I recently had breast cancer, and I am an otherwise very healthy, clean living person. I went to an all-day meeting at the hospital that they have for new patients every Monday, and every Monday there is 10-15 new people diagnosed with breast cancer just in this one hospital! That’s outrageous. Daily decisions being made by big business and politicians are, without a doubt, significantly effecting our health and well-being. You cannot bury your head in the sand forever. One day it is going to affect you and or somebody you love. It’s not too late to turn things around.

So, how about working on creating good healthy foods for us all to eat, or drugs that actually make us healthier so we don’t get sick? How about instead of spending enormous amounts of money lobbying against things that are for the greater good of humanity (ex. GMO labeling) in order to create more profit for yourselves and the shareholders, you spend that money on making people healthier? How is this not an obvious course of action in light of the crisis our world is facing?

Our world is in crisis because of bad decisions made by people in power. I am begging you to consider being somebody who makes a difference in this world, but a positive one. Do things differently! Go against the grain! Be a leader our future generations can look up to and emulate! You have a choice every day in every decision you make.
Do you really want to leave a legacy of destruction? I can’t imagine you want your children to one day know the negative impact you had on the world. Or how about your grandchildren? Remember, the food you are producing and the decisions you’re making about pharmaceuticals are no safer for your family to take then they are for anybody else? And one day a doctor may tell them they need to take something and tell them that it is perfectly safe. Are you going to tell them it isn’t and that “you had to make the shareholders happy so you marketed that drug anyways, and you hope they understand” while you sit with them in the hospital during their cancer treatments or heart surgery?

So what’s it going to be? Are you going to leave this world a better place or are you going to be bullied by the propaganda that shareholders care more about the bottom line than the great good? Are you going to be a leader you and your family can be proud of or are you going to live in fear propagating more fear for a living? You can be an ass kicking leader, you just have to be brave and do the right thing!

I’m here if you need me.

Karen

Finding Peace…

“Those who think that the world is a dark place are blind to the light that might illuminate their lives. Those who see the light of the world view the dark spots as merely potential light.” Wayne W. Dyer

When you look around the world today you’ll notice people seem to be really stuck, feeling as if they just aren’t sure how to get unstuck. They are living in fear of their future and the world they live in, and they are living in the past, not sure how to let it go. It takes time and practice, and what better way to spend your time than to spend it finding your peace of mind. Here are four key ingredients that will help get you moving out of paralysis and into your present.

In order for change to take place in your life though you need to be open to seeing things from a new perspective. As simple as that sounds, our egos can really give us a hard time when we want to make a change. So be kind, thank your ego for trying to help out and let it know that you won’t be needing it at this time.

RESPONSIBILITY

The first thing we need to be aware of is that every single thing in our lives is our responsibility. This is hard to swallow for us because we look back at our lives and think “how can I be responsibility for somebody hurting me or for the negative atmosphere at my job, etc.” The fact is we are responsible for the way others treat us and for everything in our lives. Once you accept this and internalize it, life will begin to shift for you.

Nobody can treat us anyway unless we let them. Think of any situation in your life; a bad relationship, a difficult child, an unsatisfying job, etc. Take a good look at the situation and see what you bring to the table. Are you doing your best at your job? Are you looking for more satisfying work? Are you kind to the person you are in a bad relationship with? Do you treat the people in your life the way you wish to be treated? Are you a good example for the child in your life? Be honest. Go deep inside and see what your contribution is. And then, stop it. Be the change. Don’t wait for the other person or the situation to change. Only you can change it. Stay in your business and work on you and the world around you will begin to open up and feel lighter and brighter. When you take the blame away from the world outside and take responsibility (not blame) for it, then and only then, can the situation change and heal. And then you can move forward out of the blame and into the peace where you belong.

If you are in a relationship that isn’t working and you aren’t feeling valued, how is that the other person’s fault? You are the person staying in the relationship. You most likely are not handcuffed to the other person and have the choice to stay or leave. So whose responsibility is it for your unhappiness? Yours.

If you are at a job that is stressful or unsatisfying, it’s easy to say “My boss is a jerk, it’s his fault,” or “My co-workers don’t work as hard as I do so I have to pick up their slack and work overtime,” or “The environment is toxic at my office.” You can blame for days and you will never feel better inside. It’s your choice to stay. It’s your choice to react to the environment. It’s your choice to contribute to the environment. Most importantly, it’s your choice to see it as negative. I’m not sure of the exact quote, but Dr. Wayne Dyer always says “If you see the universe as a friendly, you will be right. If you see the universe as hostile, you will be right.” So know that how you choose to see the world is entirely up to you. I have seen it from both perspectives in my life and I can tell you first hand that knowing that we live in a friendly universe has taught me to see the good in everything.

If you are truly honest with yourself, you will find your part in every situation. Once you recognize your part you will be free to let go of the blame you give to others and work towards forgiveness.

FORGIVENESS

Now that you see your part in any given situation, you can be open to forgive the person or situation you have been blaming. Blame is one of the two things that is causing the stress and anxiety, and you will want to kiss it goodbye forever. Your beliefs about how the world should be and how people should act are the second thing causing feelings of stress inside of you. Your actions are your business, their actions are theirs. Stay in your business. It’s time to forgive and let it go.

Every person in every situation is doing the best they know how in every moment. If they could do better, they would. People only know what they know until they know more. So their actions and behavior are limited to their knowledge, understanding and beliefs that they have in their lives; just like you. If somebody is hitting you, for example, it’s very likely because somebody taught them to respond that way when they are angry, and they haven’t learned an alternative way to communicate their frustrations yet. It’s unfortunate, yes, but this is all they know. If they knew how to sit down and have a nice verbal conversation over a cup of green tea, they would.

“How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”
Wayne W. Dyer

So here is where you come in. You can choose to stay in the abusive relationship or leave. Your choice, your responsibility. I know it’s not easy; I’ve been in situations that were difficult to leave. I wasn’t able to see the beauty and light on the other side of the decision so I had to take a leap of faith and know that it was going to work itself out. I had to know that I was going to grow as a person for having made the decision. I had to face my fears head on. And every time I have, I have felt the weight on my shoulders lighten. I have felt more fulfilled and at peace.

We do not have any power over how people act towards us, that’s their business. We only have power over how we react to them. We can spend our lives trying to change others, hitting our heads against a brick wall, or we can change ourselves and watch the stress wash away from us like the waves on the sand. We accomplish this by forgiving them.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who has done you wrong; it has to do with you. When we have anger inside towards a person or a situation, it doesn’t hurt them. They don’t feel your pain. Your pain radiates inside of you, causing depression, disease, stress and anxiety. The purpose of forgiveness is to get that out of you. Know that the other person did the best they knew how and send them love and pray that they will gain wisdom to do better the next time.

Take responsibility for your part and then forgive yourself too, for you did the best you knew how in that moment as well. Set it free. Holding onto it and reliving it does not serve you. Forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving the other person.

THE GIFT IN EVERY SITUATION

Every moment, every situation and every person that enters our lives is a gift. The people who come into our lives give us ‘the gift’ of showing us what we still need to work on to grow and to find the freedom we are searching for. Rather than being angry with them, consider thanking them for helping you to move closer to finding the peace in your heart.

We are faced with people who frustrate us and push our buttons. We react and blame them for being the way they are. Here is where you have to be open to changing your perspective. Let’s say for example that a husband and wife are arguing and the husband is thinking how his wife is selfish and if she were only more giving in the relationship he would be happy. What if his wife quietly held up a sign that said, “Baby, I love you, and today you need to work on being more giving in our relationship. If you do, you will be happier.” That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Instead, she acts selfishly and shows him by being his mirror. She is acting out for him what he needs to learn about himself.

Anytime somebody acts in a way that pushes your buttons, your first thought could be “Hmmm, what am I supposed to be learning here?” Give yourself a moment to breathe and contemplate that. Ask yourself “What about the way the other person is acting is getting to me and then where can I see that in myself?“ People often struggle with this part I’ve noticed because they choose not to dig deep and be honest with themselves. Consider this though, if somebody is stealing money from you, you may say I have never stolen anything from anybody in my life. But have you stolen anybody’s time, energy, thoughts, excitement, joy? Have you stolen your own joy by being negative saying things like “it won’t last?” Think outside the box, it’s not necessarily an apples-to-apples mirror. As soon as you see it though the anxiety will begin to fade away, and you will begin to feel calm and at peace. It’s pretty cool.

FAITH

I will never forget the moment I chose to have faith in my life. I spent roughly thirty years (age 11-41) as an angry young lady, blaming anybody and everything for my life and how unhappy I was. I was speaking to my teacher, Moshe, and he said to me “Karen, you have lived forty years your way, and it hasn’t worked for you. What do you have to lose by having faith?” This was a pivotal moment for me. Two sentences changed my life forever. I never considered that there was an alternative to “my way.” I decided to give it a try and started telling myself that I believed, just to test it out. I’m pretty analytical girl so I needed proof. But I said it like I believed it, even though I didn’t yet. As a result, I saw beautiful gradual change taking place in my life.

Eight years later and continually working on having full faith, I can honestly say my life has never been better. I have more peace in my heart than ever before. I live by the belief that God, the Universe, Source, whatever you chose to call it, has a much bigger, better plan than I could ever imagine. I no longer have the need or desire to make those calls. I know that I am in good hands and I focus my time and energy on being the best possible source of love and light for the world. We cannot expect one world leader, or group, to change our world. We have to be able to change ourselves if we want to see a change in our world.

There is a lot of guidance available out there to get you out of your “mind maze” so that you can get unstuck and start to move forward into peace and fulfillment. Every person resonates with their own unique blend of spirituality, wisdom and/or religion, so don’t be afraid to explore and find what fits you. There isn’t a one size fits all, it’s unique to each of us. Get out there and explore. You will know in your gut if something feels right and if it doesn’t, ask for guidance and keep looking. It is available to all of us.

Ten Strategies for Keeping your Cool During Divorce

1. Eat Healthy: This a stressful time and it is easy to reach for unhealthy, comfort foods. I’m living proof that this isn’t a good idea. This is a time that you need to maximize your good days. If you are eating large amounts of sugar and fried foods or drinking a lot of caffeine, there is a good chance your moods will swing like a chandelier. This will guarantee less good days. One day you’ll want to date again, and you will want to look your best when that day comes!

2. Exercise Regularly: You will likely have more free time to yourself as a result of your separation. Use this time to get into an exercise program. Exercise promotes endorphins which tend to lift our spirits naturally. I prefer yoga. It works my entire body and calms my mind. No matter how stressed I may feel going in, I always leave feeling relaxed.

3. Meditate: You have a lot to consider right now and your mind may feel like it’s racing even more than normal. Meditation is a great way to quiet your mind and, as a result, you’ll make better decisions and feel more relaxed. If you are unsure how to meditate there are websites such as www.tm.org that can direct you. Anybody can do it and it’s well worth your time.

4. Avoid Excessive Alcohol: I have no idea how much alcohol is excessive for you, but you do if you are honest with yourself. If you are drinking more than you know you should then stop it! Alcohol is a natural depressant. The last thing you need at a time like this is to feel more down than you do. And by all means, DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE WITH YOUR KIDS IN THE CAR! I know this sounds ridiculous to bring this up, but I know of many people who do this on a regular basis.

5. Avoid Excessive Drugs: You know what you are taking and whether it is good for you or not, it’s not my job to tell you what to take. Just keep this in mind: drugs cause mood fluctuations which result in irrational decisions that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. And don’t forget, your kids know everything you’re doing-really!

6. Breathe: Before you make any decisions or answer any questions posed by either your lawyer or your ex, TAKE 10 LONG, SLOW DEEP BREATHS IN AND OUT. Think about what the best thing is for all involved and if there is a compromise you might suggest if you don’t agree with something.

7. Take the High Road: Nothing is EVER gained by revenge! You never win with vengeance as your motive. Keep in mind that we are all human beings that continually make mistakes and learn from them; nobody gets to skip being human, not even you. Don’t forget, forgiving isn’t about the other person, it’s about you and getting the negativity out of you.

8. Volunteer Your Time: When we are helping somebody else, we get out of our heads where our problems live. You automatically feel better once you start helping others. It’s a win-win.

9. Interview Several Lawyers: Find a lawyer that shares your values. If you hire someone who wants to “bury your ex” and you want a quick, amicable divorce, this could be a very long road for you. It’s best to be on the same page as your attorney. Keep in mind, anybody that thinks “burying your ex” is a good idea probably has your bank account as their motivator.

10. Respect yourself, your kids and your ex-spouse: Don’t play games! Get in and get out quickly. Be amicable and fair and don’t be afraid to compromise. Nobody wins when you and your spouse spend time in court fighting, except for your lawyers and they are typically quite happy. Replace any anger you get from your ex with love. You’d be surprised how quickly people can turn around when you aren’t fighting back. Mama always said “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”